M&Ms June Newletter
1. Full name
Taryn Macleod Hayes
2. Could you describe your family in one word, and then let us know a bit more about them?
I chose ‘abundant’ because that was the closest I could get to summing us up! Abundant in mistakes, selfishness, noise and just plain ol’ sin. Yet, abundant in God’s grace, firstly through His saving us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. And secondly, for giving us gifts of common grace. If I think of each of the kids’ abundance of positive God-given traits, I’d have to say that Kiera (10) is abundant in enthusiasm, perseverance and self-direction. Katie (8) is abundant in creativity, compassion and friendship. Samuel (6) is abundant in kisses, creative plans and joy. Micah (4) is abundant in fierce love, loyalty and hilarity. And my hubby and me? Our negatives are many, but I am glad that the Lord has blessed me with a hubby who serves practically, loves me without expectations and is abundant in grounding advice and care.
We bumped heads. Quite literally! We were in the same youth group, but didn’t know each other. One evening at a crowded, noisy teen party we were introduced. Later, I tried to ask him if he knew where my friend was, and we ended up whacking our foreheads together in an attempt to hear each other over the noise! We were 15 and 17 at the time. We never imagined that our first meeting would lead to a 6-year romance and a 14-year (and counting!) marriage.
4. I hear you homeschool, I know there must be a long story, but what led you to the decision to homeschool?
Yip, it is a long story! But, the skinny is that I had been a high school teacher in the early 2000s when I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t like what the government was proposing that we teach children at the time. That led me to start investigating the world of homeschooling. Initially a little reluctantly, because homeschoolers are weird, you know! But, soon I started realising that what homeschooling could offer our family by way of freedom and flexibility would be awesome. Tailoring learning to each child’s needs. Enjoying flexible schedules. Being able to holiday out of season. Enjoying nurturing family relationships. Making friends across age-, sex- and background- barriers. These are just a few of the plusses that drew us in. So, while what got me investigating were the push factors away from traditional schooling, it was the pull factors towards homeschooling that really got the whole family embracing this counter-cultural lifestyle choice.
5. What does a typical day in the life of Taryn look like?
During our school terms, it’s fairly structured (in theory, sometimes it’s totally out of whack, but at least we have an idea of how it is supposed to look!) If I am sticking to self-imposed disciplines, then I will have my QT and exercise in the morning and be ready for breakfast with the kids at 8am. In winter, that is a whole lot harder to do, and I’m likely to be hankering after the last snatches of sleep when Craig comes to pray with me before heading to work around 7:30. I try to start our more structured schooling around 9am with Bible time. If all goes according to plan, then we are done by 12:30 ready for lunch. After lunch we catch up on any other books we haven’t finished reading aloud in the morning. And the late afternoons are usually reserved for extra-murals for the kids, which is when I get to play mommy-taxi like most moms in Cape Town! The kids help out with the before-supper chores from 5pm or so and we usually eat between 6:15 and 6:45, depending on when Craig gets home. Then more after-supper chores for all of us before the kids settle down with Dad for stories on the couch. He’s busy working his way through the Narnia series for a second time. By the time the kids are all in bed, it’s 8pm which is when I will collapse on the couch with hubby to watch a DVD (especially after a particularly difficult kid-wrangling day where tantrums have been had. The worst being the mommy-tantrum!). Otherwise, I will head off to my computer to do some writing or admin or faffing. I’m very good at faffing!
6. You sound very busy! How do you prioritise your time?
I struggle with that a lot. So, sometimes I don’t prioritise very well. I’ve learnt that I can’t write blog posts or story ideas and such during the day as then I would be totally unavailable to the children. So, I reserve that sort of thing for my evenings. But, hubby-time is pretty important to me, too, so I try not to do concentrated writing more than a couple of times a week.
7. What do you do to relax?
Write. Seriously. It sounds absurd, but I love writing and so writing is relaxing. Not the in the romantic sense of the poet with pen to journal, as much as I’d like to have that image of myself! But more the tapping away at the keyboard spilling thoughts, recording life, thinking through issues, and, of course, creating stories. Other activities that I enjoy and find relaxing and/or rejuvenating would be just hanging out with my hubby, watching something entertaining on DVD, or cuddling up in bed with a great book.
8. We are very excited to read ‘Seekers of the Lost Boy’!! What was your journey to becoming an official author like?
Exhilarating and surprising! I hadn’t planned on becoming an “official author”, although I’ve always had a desire to author books ever since I was about 8 years old. When I first thought about writing something for my own children, it was because I wanted to give them a story with modern-day homeschooled characters like themselves. But, over time, the idea for a story grew so much that it eventually began spilling out onto my keyboard. By this time, my goals were more defined: an exciting story that carries three essential elements: homeschooled characters, a gospel focus and an historical significance. When I started writing the gospel-revealing chapters, I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility and awe at the privilege. It was the first time I started to think seriously about publishing the book when I was done. It took a lot of prayer, discussion with supportive, caring and wise friends and family to decide to publish. You see, my main time-intensive job in this season of my life is the homeschooling of my kids. So, choosing to publish a story that was initially written only for my own children was a decision that I did not take lightly, because I knew that it would require me to be extremely disciplined to ensure that the “author” hat did not cause me to unfairly compromise my time with the kids and husband. But, knowing that the gospel in the story could have an impact on the lives of those who read the story was the big motivation to publish the story and let God do with it what He chooses. Since then, it’s been crazy intense! I’ve been on a huge learning curve about stuff I didn’t really consider when starting out writing – like the nitty-gritty of publishing and the world of marketing. Even so, the exhilarating moments have been many: writing the story was as much fun as reading an intense and exciting book. Seeing my children’s excitement and pride has been a treat – usually it’s us parents who get to enjoy that sense of positive pride in our children’s realised goals, but seeing my eldest almost burst with excitement for me has been incredibly rewarding. And, now that the story is published, the journey highlight is when readers tell me what they loved about the book, what touched them, who they identified with, what phrase struck them. Hearing their experiences feels like the circle of the Seekers family is growing and I love that others get to enjoy the ride with me.
9. What was the idea that sparked the story for this book?
The first idea was very simple – some kids find an object that sets them off on an unexpected journey. I played around with ideas, but when I hit on the idea of linking back to District Six and forced removals through a message found in a bottle, the story just took off.
10. The story is a real page-turner! Give us a taste of what to expect!
It begins on Muizenberg beach one winter’s morning when 12-year-old Simon Ward finds a message in a bottle. It contains a letter written by Joseph, another 12-year-old boy, from the poverty-stricken Cape Flats in 1980. The letter is brief and contains one question: Who is God and does he care about me? The mysterious letter causes Simon and his family to search for Joseph. Their journey takes them on an unexpected adventure where they encounter witnesses to the forced removals of District Six, confront a family secret and discover the answer to the question that Joseph poses.
11. How would you encourage any other aspiring authors?
I’d say, “just do it!” Mervyn Eloff has often quoted GK Chesterton from the pulpit, “anything worth doing is worth doing badly”. In other words, if something is worth doing, it’s just worth doing. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe that something is only worth doing if it’s certain to be done well. But, the truth is, anything worth doing should be done, regardless of how well. Ironically, it’s often those who ‘just do it’ who end up discovering that they can do something well, after all! So, if you want to write, then write. And keep writing. The more you write, the better you’re likely to get and the more you will enjoy it.
12. How does being a Christian affect the way you write?
Being a Christian is one of the main reasons why I write. Seekers would not have been published if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a gospel-driven story. When I write, my aim is to bring glory to God. Sometimes, I mess up in the blogging sphere (my other writing outlet) and there is less glory to God and more glory to Me, but for the most part, I want to write in such a way that points to Jesus. It is the reason that my blog slogan is “the happenings in a home where mistakes are plenty but the grace of God is abundant” – my aim is to be honest about our failings and yet unashamed about our joy in Christ. In Seekers, my aim was the same – as best as I knew how, I wanted to point to Jesus through the mess that is our lives, all while enjoying the wonders that He gives us. And in the Seekers case, that includes adventure, intrigue, joy, relationship, family, fun and a mystery or two to uncover!
13. What is your favourite part of the day?
Selfishly, my favourite part is late evenings when the house is quiet and I can be tapping away at the keyboard, undisturbed. Less selfishly, it’s midday after lunch, when the kids and I curl up on the couch with our latest read-aloud books and sometimes experience some of the most heart-warming moments of our lives.
14. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Oooh, I’d love to visit the USA again. I was an exchange student with Rotary back in 1995 and I’ve always wanted to go back and visit Menominee, Michigan and then travel the country with my family. But, then again, I’d happily be curled up on my brother and sister-in-law’s couch in Perth, Australia eating toasted cheese sandwiches and having deep conversation. But, then again (again), how I would love to be standing on the edge of the canyon, drinking in the Negev sunset in Sde Boker, Israel alongside my sister, Kelly, and the rest of her family! Someone invent an instantaneous transporter please!